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4 things Canadians need to know before file 2020 tax

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Let’s face it, online software and auto-fill features are making tax filing less and less painful even for the do-it-yourselfers.

Still, whether you’re outsourcing the work to an algorithm or an accountant, it’s always a good idea to know when deadlines fall and what’s new every year.

Here’s our guide to the 2020 tax season:

1. When is the deadline to contribute to my RRSP?

Since March 1 falls on a Sunday this year, the cutoff this year is March 2.

Remember, you can put money into your registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) any time. But if you want to get a tax refund for your RRSP contribution with your 2019 return, you have to add the funds by the March deadline.

2. When’s the tax-filing deadline?

As usual, April 30 is the date most Canadians need to keep in mind. For the majority of tax filers, this is the deadline to both pay any tax due and file returns.

If you’re self-employed, this year you have until June 15 to file. Remember, though, that if you owe taxes, you still need to pay up by April 30.

If you’re late to either settle your balance or send in your paperwork, you’ll face late-filing penalty and daily interest charges on any taxes owed.

 

3. When’s the earliest I can file?

If you just can’t wait to get that big refund, know that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will start accepting electronic returns on Feb. 24.

Most people want to skip the tax-processing queue because they anticipate getting money back. But having a big tax bill is also a good reason to file early. That allows you to set up a plan to pay your tax in installments. The more you manage to pay by April 30, the fewer extra charges you’ll face.

Still, there are potential drawbacks with filing too earlysaid Robin Taub of TurboTax. Many of the tax slips you need to file your return are due March 2, so it’s not a good idea to file before then unless you’re sure you’ve received all of them, she noted.

Also, it usually takes until mid-March for tax slips and other information the CRA has on file to become available through its auto-fill my return feature, which allows you to automatically fill-in part of your return.

4. What’s new this year?

Here are the highlights:

New and improved federal tax breaks:

Climate Action Incentive. Albertans will now be able to claim this federal incentive, while residents of New Brunswick will not. If you live in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or Ontario, you continue to be eligible and stand to receive a considerably larger amount this tax season compared to last year.

The money, which may create or boost a tax refund or reduce a balance owing, is meant to offset the cost of the carbon tax in provinces that do not have a carbon price regime of their own. The amount of the tax credit depends on family size — you can use this table from H&R Block to calculate how much your household can claim.

It’s important to note that the tax credit applies to the household, not the individual taxpayer, said Lisa Gittens of H&R Block. This means that only one person for every family living under the same roof should claim the credit, she added.

In Alberta, where the federal carbon tax took effect in January, taxpayers will now be getting the federal incentive instead of the Alberta Leadership Adjustment Rebate, which was only available to lower-income taxpayers.

Larger withdrawals under the Home Buyers’ Plan. The Home Buyers Plan allows you to withdraw money from your RRSP to buy your first home. The withdrawal is tax-free as long you put the money back into your RRSP within 15 years according to a set schedule that starts the second year after the year in which you first withdrew funds. (However, you can also repay in full or more than the required amount.)

What’s changed here is that the maximum amount you can pluck from your retirement account increased from $25,000 to $35,000 for withdrawals made after March 19, 2019. While this has no impact on 2019 returns, if you took advantage of the beefed-up plan, you’ll find your HBP statement account in the notice of assessment for your 2020 return, Gittens said.

That statement will indicate any amount you have repaid, your remaining balance and what you need to put back in the RRSP the following year. It’s important to know you need to designate your RRSP contributions as HBP repayments. If you don’t, it will be considered a regular RRSP contribution and you’ll be deemed to have missed an HBP repayment. That repayment installment will become taxable, as if it had been a regular RRSP withdrawal.

“It really is a simple step to miss,” Gittens said, “especially for those who are using like online software or don’t communicate correctly to their tax professional.”

Cannabis as a medical expense. If you’ve been prescribed medical cannabis products, you may now be able to claim them under the medical expense tax credit.

Canada Workers Benefit. The Working Income Tax Benefit, a refundable tax credit for low-income Canadians who work, is now the Canada Workers Benefit. With the CWB, the maximum tax credit increases by up to $170 and the income level at which the credit is phased out completely is higher.

New and improved provincial tax breaks:

Ontario

The low-income individuals and families (LIFT) tax credit. The LIFT credit is designed so that someone working full-time making minimum wage pays no provincial tax. It works out to tax relief of up to $850 for individuals and up to $1,700 for couples. Those who qualify will get a tax reduction of $450 on average, the government estimates.

Childcare access and relief from expenses (CARE). This refundable tax credit aims to help families with children up to age 16 and income of up to $150,000. The credit is in addition to the provincial and federal childcare expense deductions and includes a broad range of child-care options, such as day camps and boarding schools.

Eligible families stand to receive up to $6,000 per child under the age of seven and up to $3,750 per child between the ages of seven and 16.

New Brunswick

The tuition tax credit is back. Eliminated in 2017, the tuition tax credit is now a thing again. Students and eligible relatives will be able to claim tuition fees paid in 2019 as well as in 2017 and in 2018.

Tax breaks that are no longer:

British Columbia

Education tax credit. The provincial government has nixed the education credit starting with tax year 2019. Happily, you can still claim tuition fees.

Service upgrades from CRA:

Check processing times. The CRA now has an online tool that lets you check the estimated processing time for tax returns and other tax-related requests. This isn’t real-time tracking of your actual return, though. If you input your filing date, you’ll get an estimate of when the agency aims to issue your notice of assessment.

PINs for phone calls. You can now set up a personal identification number to quickly identify yourself when calling the CRA. You can set up the PIN over the phone or in My Account.

Paper returns. If you filed with pen and paper last year, you’ll receive your tax package in the mail by Feb. 17.

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Vinclum cheat investors of $1.5m — with lure of $16m profits

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Alleged Vinclum Corporation fraudsters conned their creditors of more than $1.5m, a sum which was to be used to leverage $16m in an investment scheme that never took place.

Robert Allen, then director of Vinclum Corporation, Toronto, together with Daniel Carrasco, Wojciech Karcinski (often referred to as Peter Karcinski) and several other individuals employed by the Vinclum Group, allegedly persuaded their investors to wire funds for the scheme.

Allen and his associates reportedly convinced one financial services director to part with an initial $250,000.00, which in several stages would eventually generate profits of $16m. A second party, acting on behalf of six clients, invested a further $1.25m in the scheme. The funds would be used for the purchase of DLCs (Documentary Letters of Credit).

A DLC is a frequently used banking instrument in international trade. It instructs an issuing bank to pay a seller, normally in connection with the export of goods, with the bank acting as an intermediary in the transaction. The holder may be able to borrow against a future payment, at a loan-to-value ratio of up to 50%. Allen and the Vinclum Group were said to have connections with international banks that would facilitate a legal scheme to exploit this instrument.

Under the scheme, when a $4m DLC was redeemed, it generated cash of $2m. These funds would be used to purchase a larger DLC of $32m, which would generate $16m in cash, which would then be distributed between the alleged fraudsters and the victims.

The victims wired the funds with the belief that DLCs would be bought and monetized. However no such DLCs were purchased in relation to the agreement, it is claimed.

Despite repeated requests, and assurances by the Vinclum Group that the funds would be returned, no refund has been received.

A motion for injunction has been filed to freeze the assets of the accused while fraud investigations are underway.

Ends

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More Charges Dropped Just Days Before Trial Against Activists Who Exposed Animal Cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm

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ABBOTSFORD, BC – Several criminal charges were dropped by the Crown yesterday against three animal rights activists just days before their four-week trial is set to begin on Monday, June 27. Amy Soranno, Roy Sasano, and Nick Schafer are accused of exposing animal cruelty at Excelsior Hog Farm in Abbotsford, BC in 2019, and still face a combined total of 14 indictable charges of Break and enter and Criminal Mischief. A press conference will be held in front of the BC Supreme Court in Abbotsford on the first day of trial.The Crown gave no explanation when it dropped some of the remaining charges yesterday against the three activists. The Crown similarly dropped all charges last month, without explanation, against a fourth activist, Geoff Regier, after his lawyers argued in a pretrial hearing that police and the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BCSPCA) had engaged in misconduct.Soranno, Sasano, and Schafer, who together with Regier are calling themselves the Excelsior 4. The three activists could each be sentenced to years in prison if convicted.

What: Press conference & start of four-week trial for the Excelsior 4When: Monday, June 27, press conference at 9am, trial at 10amWhere: BC Supreme Court, 32375 Veterans Way, Abbotsford, BC

“The Excelsior 4 case started three years ago with a total of 21 charges hanging over us,” said Amy Soranno, one of the Excelsior 4 defendants going to trial on Monday. “But before the jury has even been selected, the Crown has dropped all charges against one of us and reduced the number of charges against the rest of us.”Until last month, Regier had faced similar charges for his role in blowing the whistle on Excelsior. In July 2019, Regier made contact with the BCSPCA—the only animal abuse enforcement agency in BC—and provided the private charity with video evidence of criminal animal cruelty at the hog farm. However, instead of recommending charges against Excelsior, the BCSPCA violated its own confidentiality policy in order to turn Regier over to police. The trial comes more than three years after the exposure of animal cruelty at Excelsior, yet the hog farm has never had to answer for the video footage clearly depicting animal abuse. A short video was recently published about the Excelsior 4 case, with an incisive look at how industry has avoided accountability, how the police mishandled evidence, and how the Crown is criminalizing activists. View the 7-minute video here: https://youtu.be/FJGAI02SWzw. “The fact that we still face prison time while Excelsior Hog Farm is free to continue its abusive practices is a mockery of justice,” said Soranno. “This case further illustrates the clear bias against animals and activists by the animal agriculture industry, BCSPCA, and police. Our trial will shine a light on the criminal animal abuse taking place at Excelsior, and the failure to hold them and other animal farms accountable.” The trial also comes more than a year after a Freedom of Information disclosure revealed that the BCSPCA has no capacity to enforce anti-cruelty laws at animal farms in BC. Activists point to the abuse carried out at Excelsior as just one example of the BCSPCA’s failure to take enforcement action despite ample evidence of criminal animal cruelty. “BC needs an enforcement agency that is accountable to the public, not a private charity that is unfit for the role and only answerable to its board of directors,” said Soranno. In addition to demanding that the hog farm be held accountable, the Excelsior 4 and animal rights activists across the province are calling on BC Agriculture Minster Lana Popham to replace the private charity BCSPCA with a more accountable government agency to enforce against animal cruelty in BC. In the interest of transparency and accountability, activists are also demanding the installation of Closed-Circuit TV cameras at all animal agriculture facilities in BC. “With no national regulations governing animal welfare on farms and virtually no government oversight on farms, one of the only ways abuse and mistreatment of farmed animals comes to light is through whistleblower and hidden camera exposés,” said Animal Justice in a recent statement. “Preventing journalists and animal advocates from exposing animal abuse restricts freedom of expression, one of the most important human rights in Canada.” For more information about the Excelsior 4, the story behind their charges, and how to take action against animal cruelty: www.excelsior4.org/.
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Is The Canadian Online Gambling Industry Regulated?

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Like in many western countries, gambling is a popular pastime for many Canadians. Throughout Canada’s evolution, it has strived to give its citizens the freedom of gambling across the provinces. Thanks to this, casinos in the country have grown and thrived over the years, from land-based casinos to the more modern online gambling sites.

Interestingly, government-sponsored sites have also joined the online trend. While other nations globally move from one extreme to the other in terms of their stand on gambling, Canadian lawmakers have generally used an even-handed approach despite the attraction of quick and easy money.

Generally, the country’s laws are flexible while simultaneously protecting the public’s welfare.

 

History of Canada’s Gambling Laws

The ‘90s marked a new age for the gambling industry in Canada because of the computer and internet boom. The first online casinos also launched during this era, and you no longer had to risk gambling in unlicensed casinos in Sweden if you could not access legal casinos. Avid gamblers could simply go online, although they were much fewer in number.

The first reason for this was only a few people owned computers. There was also a concern about the absence of online casino regulations. As the industry expanded, governments began establishing rules to control the sector. Today, traditional and online gambling is prevalent in the country since accessing casinos is much simpler now than before.

 

Is the gambling sector legal in Canada?

Online gambling had been illegal for years in Canada until quite recently. Now, it is legal in Canada in different forms. All the ten provinces and the three territories have the premise to set their own rules. The minimum legal gambling age in Canada is 19, apart from Alberta and Quebec, where players are only allowed to gamble upon turning 18.

All casinos, lotteries, racetracks as well as other gaming establishments must abide by the rules stipulated by their territory or province of operation. As previously mentioned, some forms of gambling are legal in parts of Canada and illegal in others. The country has two gambling laws; the First Nations Law and the Provincial Law.

The latter accords each territory or province control over gambling activities within its jurisdiction. Subsequently, some provincial laws are stricter than the federal regulations.

 

Take away

Today, many Canadians enjoy gambling online, from sports betting and live tables to traditional games like slots. Now that it is legal, you can safely access any reputable and legal casino online and physically.

 

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